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Tags: Coronavirus | Supreme Court | cp snow | two cultures | science

C.P. Snow's 'The Two Cultures' and America's COVID Epidemic

C.P. Snow's 'The Two Cultures' and America's COVID Epidemic
C.P. Snow addressing the United Nations in 1974. (AP)

By Thursday, 10 December 2020 10:28 AM Current | Bio | Archive

When I was a student at the venerable Bronx High School of Science in the mid-1960s, C.P. Snow's 1959 influential polemic "The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution," was passionately debated by the students and faculty. Snow, a leading British physicist and novelist, identified a widening chasm between his scientific colleagues and literary intellectuals, and he sharply criticized the latter for their "total incomprehension of science."

Six decades later, during the COVID epidemic, Snow's theses, which were also attacked or supported by American intellectuals in the tumultuous 1960s, are again timely. Two recent diametrically opposite Supreme Court decisions, concerning the constitutionality of the Democratic governors of New York and California severely restricting attendance at houses of worship during the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic, highlight the gigantic cognitive gulf between world-class medical clinicians and researchers on one side, and liberal politicians, lawyers and judges on the other.

As I noted in a Dec. 7 Newsmax article, Chief Justice John Roberts, in the California case in May, "South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Gov. Gavin Newsom, mind-bogglingly declared, in an opinion upholding severe restrictions on the number of worshippers at religious services, that 870 federal judges were not qualified to "second-guess" elected politicians and so-called public-health "experts," as they lack the "background, competence and expertise to assess public health" during a deadly epidemic.

But on Nov. 25, another 5-4 Supreme Court decision, "Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo," suspended similar draconian and constantly changing restrictions on congregants at Roman Catholic churches in Brooklyn and at Jewish synagogues in certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a fiery dissent that echoed Justice Robert's majority opinion six months earlier, castigated her five colleagues for "play[ing] a deadly game in second guessing the expert judgment of health officials" during the COVID epidemic.

The scandal of tens of thousands of avoidable COVID deaths, which occurred in facilities for frail senior citizens during the first few months of the epidemic, and which were overwhelmingly the responsibility of a group of Democratic governors and their incompetent commissioners of public health, should have disabused the Supreme Court's liberal justices, about these politicians' "expert judgement."

Compared to the "Potemkin Village" daily COVID press conferences from Democratic governors and mayors, America's world-class doctors and pharmaceutical companies, whose research and development were funded by President Donald Trump's brilliant, unprecedented multi-billion-dollar "Operation Warp Speed" (OWS), worked intensely to develop therapeutics and vaccines.

Bronx Science, in addition to having thousands of lawyers among graduates, including scientifically literate federal judges Alvin Hellerstein, Victor Marrero, Dora Irizarry, Edmond Chang and Joseph Greenway, has thousands of alumni who have been medical doctors and researchers.

Prominent graduates in the fields of biomedical research and infectious diseases include: George Yancopoulos, the co-founder and chief scientist at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, the Westchester-based biotechnology company whose OWS-supported antibody cocktail targeting the SARS-CoV-2 virus saved the lives of President Trump and Dr. Ben Carson; Drs. Stanley Plotkin and Walter Orenstein, two of three authors of the standard medical textbook on vaccines; Rose G. Mage, Ph.D., the former chief of Molecular Immunogenetics at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Richard Finkelstein, Ph.D., who was the first researcher to purify the cholera enterotoxin, for which he was awarded the prestigious Robert Koch Prize in Biomedical Sciences in 1976; Dr. Barbara Stoll (a classmate), the former dean of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and recipient of the John Howland Award for Pediatrics; and Dr. Robert Lefkowitz, the 2012 Nobel laureate for Chemistry, whose discoveries in receptor biology and signal transduction have led to the formulation of many therapeutic prescription drugs.

In short, since its founding in 1938, the Bronx High School of Science has brilliantly harmonized C.P. Snow's antagonistic "Two Cultures," and that is why students and alumni, from myriad professional fields, have ferociously battled mayors from John Lindsay in the mid-1960s to Bill de Blasio during the last few years, the scientific illiterates who have been hell-bent on destroying one of the world's pre-eminent secondary schools.

A hilarious anecdote from Bronx Science alumnus, Leonard Susskind, the 80-year-old, world-renowned theoretical physicist, when he informed his parents he wanted to be a scientist, should encourage many working-class families, who have a brilliant son or daughter who expresses a counter-intuitive interest in a career in science:

Leonard: "I want to be a physicist."

Father, a Plumber: "You ain't going to work in no drugstore."

Leonard: "No, not a pharmacist, a physicist.

Father: "What's a physicist?"

Leonard: "Like Einstein."

Mother (sobbing): "We're going to be broke." (His father was ailing and
teenage Leonard was working in the family business.)

Father: "Shut up. He's going to be Einstein."

Finally, seven Bronx Science alumni won the Nobel Prize in Physics, an unrivaled accomplishment that would have warmed the heart of C.P. Snow, Ph.D.: Roy Glauber, Sheldon Glashow, Steven Weinberg, Mel Schwartz, Leon Cooper, Russell Hulse, and H. David Politzer.

Mark Schulte is a retired New York City schoolteacher and mathematician who has written extensively about science and the history of science. Read Mark Schulte's Report's — More Here.

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MarkSchulte
Six decades later, during the COVID epidemic, Snow's theses, which were also attacked or supported by American intellectuals in the tumultuous 1960s, are again timely.
cp snow, two cultures, science
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2020-28-10
Thursday, 10 December 2020 10:28 AM
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